Express Newark to Host Black Portraiture[s] Conference

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Express Newark will host Black Portraiture[s]: Play and Performance, the seventh annual Black Portraiture[s] Conference from Thursday, February 17 to Saturday, February 19, 2022. The three-day conference explores the theme of play and performance in past and contemporary African diasporic art and performance and will conclude with a series of groundbreaking keynote conversations for the 42nd Annual Marion Thompson Wright Lecture at the Newark Museum of Art. 
The conference will be held in person at Express Newark in downtown Newark for participants and a limited number of Rutgers University faculty, students, and staff. It will be held online for the public via livestream. Please register here.

An academic conference committed to the study of African diasporic art and culture, Black Portraiture[s] initially began as a colloquium on African American art at Harvard University convened by Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. with Dr. Deborah Willis and Manthia Diawara of New York University. Then it went on to Paris, becoming an international conference series, co-hosted by Awam Amkpa, Professor at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and Cheryl Finley, Inaugural Director of the Atlanta University Center Collective for the Study of Art History and Curatorial Studies, Black Portraiture[s] now attracts hundreds of scholars, artists, and activists from around the world each convening. The conference was first held in Paris in 2013 and has since taken place in cities as diverse as New York, Florence, Toronto, and Johannesburg. Black Portraiture[s] now attracts hundreds of scholars, artists, and activists from around the world at each convening.
Organized by an interdisciplinary advisory board of Rutgers University faculty and Express Newark directors Salamishah Tillet and Nick Kline, New Arts Justice program coordinator Alliyah Allen, and Express Newark curators and artists in residence, the conference will feature scholarly presentations, creative lectures, and short live performances that focus on a wide variety of related topics, from “Carnival, Junkanoo, and Mas’ Movements,” “Pleasure and Subject Making in Black Diasporic Visual Culture,” and “Black Girl Performance and Activism.” All panels will be streamed live and the keynote conversation recorded for later posting online as part of Express Newark’s commitment to bringing its programming to audiences around the world.

Opening the conference on February 17 is Picturing Black Girlhood: Moments of Possibility, an exhibition that focuses on the concept of Black girlhood in over 150 works by 70 Black women, girls, and genderqueer photographers and filmmakers who range in age from 8 to 94 years old. Bringing pioneering Black photographers such as Carrie Mae Weems, Doris Derby, Lorraine O’Grady, Deborah Roberts, Latoya Ruby Frazier, Lola Flash, Tawny Champion, Sophia Nahli Allison, and others in conversation with over 30 Black girl photographers, Picturing Black Girlhood is curated by Scheherazade Tillet and Zoraida Lopez and is supported by the Express Newark curatorial team of Alliyah Allen and Anonda Bell. 

On February 18, the Project for Empty Space gallery will host a reception for Scheherazade Tillet: Black Girl Play, an exhibition exploring the convergence of coming-of-age celebrations, community traditions, and radical play, at various points in the lives of Black girls. An important element of the exhibition is the radically beautiful resistance it presents against a historic American stereotype that robs Black girls of their childhood. Tillet’s photographs are reminders that joy and play are not only prevalent and normal but things to be preserved and validated. Black Girl Play is curated by Jasmine Wahi and Rebecca Jampol.
On the final day, the 42nd Annual Marion Thompson Wright Lecture will be held at the Newark Museum of Art, featuring keynote artists who all foreground the themes of play, utopia, and performances in their work. Conversations will take place from 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. and will include photographer Tyler Mitchell with Dr. Deborah Willis; visual artist Bisa Butler and Linda Harrison, the Director and the CEO of the Newark Museum of Art, and Grammy-award nominated jazz violinist Regina Carter in dialogue with renowned scholar Dr. Farah Jasmine Griffin, and playwright Dominique Morisseau in conversation with Kamilah Forbes, the Executive Producer of Apollo Theater.

This event is hosted by Express Newark and the Clement at Rutgers University - Newark, with additional major funding from the Ford Foundation, The Institute of the Study of Global Racial Justice at Rutgers University, Department of Photography and  Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, The Institute of African American Affairs/Center for Black Visual Culture at New York University, New Jersey Council of the Humanities, New Jersey Historical Commission, and Prudential Financial.

The exhibitions are hosted by Express Newark and Project for Empty Space, with additional major funding from the Ford Foundation, A Long Walk Home, New Arts Justice, Grantmakers for Girls of Color, The Black Girl Freedom 

About Express Newark

Express Newark is a center for socially engaged art and design that brings together the community, the campus, and the City of Newark. Supported by Rutgers University, Newark, it is conceived as a “third space” for students, artists, and activists to make art that matters, addresses our city’s most prevailing social justice issues, and advocates for systemic change.
About Black Portraiture[s] VII: Play and Performance

Black Portraiture[s] is an academic conference committed to the study of African diasporic art and culture that began as a colloquium hosted by Harvard University and New York University in Paris in 2013. Now in its seventh iteration, the conference Black Portraiture[s] VII: Play and Performance will be hosted by Rutgers University-Newark at Express Newark from February 17-19, 2022, with Black Girl Play as a featured exhibition.
About Rutgers University - Newark 
Rutgers University – Newark (RU-N) is a remarkably diverse, urban, public research university that is not just in Newark but of Newark—an anchor institution of our home city. We think of anchor institutions as place-based organizations that persist in their communities over generations even in the face of substantial capital flight, serving as social glue, economic engines, or both.


For Express Newark: In accordance with Rutgers University and State of New Jersey guidelines, visitors 12 years and older must be vaccinated against Covid-19, and visitors two years and older must wear a mask. Photo ID and proof of vaccination or negative PCR test from a test taken no more than 72 hours before the event must be presented when entering an event. This applies to all populations: students, faculty, staff, alumni, and visitors. 

For Newark Museum of Art: Proof of vaccination will be required from all visitors. Anyone over the age of 12 must present proof of full vaccination. Children ages 5 through 11 must have proof of one COVID-19 vaccine dose. Adult visitors (18+) must present personal identification. School ID will be required for kids ages 13 through 18.  

Visitor Information

Express Newark is located at 54 Halsey Street in downtown Newark, NJ.
Picturing Black Girlhood Exhibition Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday 12-5, Thursday 12-8, Saturday 12-5.

Project for Empty Space is located at 800 Broad St in downtown Newark, NJ.
SCHEHERAZADE TILLET: BLACK GIRL PLAY Exhibition Hours: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, 11-5.

Admission is free.

Press Contact:  Margaret Doyle    646-515-1272